Tiger Woods’ caddie is among the roughly 70 new caddies joining a class action lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court claiming they should be paid for wearing sponsor names, such as Coca Cola, Buick and FexEx, on their bibs.
Caddie Steve Williams is the highest profile caddie to join the suit against the PGA Tour, first filed on Feb. 2 in U.S. District Court of Northern California with 82 caddies who live across the United States and Canada.
Houston-based sports law attorney Eugene Egdorf of the Lanier Law Firm said Williams signed on within the “last 10 days or so” and he plans to file an amended complaint within a week to encompass about 150 caddies. According to Egdorf, this is the first caddie lawsuit of its kind.
“I don’t think the Tour has treated the caddies in a correct manner for a long time,” Williams told GolfChannel.com from his home in New Zealand. “I think this is a good starting point to get the Tour and the caddies in a better stead.”
The caddies are suing the PGA Tour, which is based in Maryland with an office in San Francisco, saying the tour should not be able to force the caddies to wear the bibs and "retain for itself the tens of millions of dollars in advertising generated by those bibs" without sharing the rewards with the caddies. Egdorf’s suit says the annual revenues from the bibs total about $50 million. The lawsuit also claims the PGA Tour has denied caddies access to basic health care and a pension plan. And the lawsuit claims that during tournament play, caddies may only use portable lavatories without running water.
PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw told the Associated Press golf reporter there would be no comment on pending litigation. He told the same thing to Golf.com.
The caddies are seeking an injunctive relief so that the PGA Tour will stop “the wrongful conduct that gives rise to this suit,” and they are seeking “actual damages and disgorgement" of any money the PGA Tour "unlawfully acquired as a result of appropriating the caddies’ endorsement services.”
“The purposes of this lawsuit are to compensate caddies who have been forced to wear the logos of Defendant’s corporate sponsors without remuneration, and to preclude Defendant from forcing caddies to provide these endorsement services gratuitously in the future,” the suit claims.
Egdorff’s firm noted the suit was also filed in San Francisco because it's the same jurisdiction where former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon successfully sued the NCAA for keeping college players from selling their marketing rights. The PGA Tour also holds 10 tourneys in California.
The original lead plaintiffs in the caddie suit are: Mike Hicks of North Carolina, the caddie for Payne Stewart when he won his last U.S. Open in 1999, and Kenny Harms of Florida, who works for Kevin Na, were the top two class representatives in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also lays out a brief history of caddies, and describes their treatment as second-class citizens on the golf course.
“Caddies were originally golf club servants chosen by a club member to carry his bag and to locate errant balls. Given the rudimentary grooming of early golf courses, the first caddies were often called upon to locate each ball driven down the fairway,” the lawsuit describes.
But caddies, as the lawsuit lays out, are much more than the goofball character depicted by Bill Murray in the 1980 hit film, “Caddyshack.”
“As time passed, caddies became experts in course geometry and topography and provided players an advantage over competitors who lacked such a resource,” the lawsuit states. “Caddies must know the correct yardage for every lie on every hole, and they must be skilled in reading greens. Caddies also serve as coaches, strategists, general assistants, cheerleaders, counselors, and friends.”